Are the Only Good Roles for Women in Sci-fi?

Tatiana Maslany can play any character.
Tatiana Maslany can play any character. Photo: Jason LaVeris/Getty Images

Tatiana Maslany hit the acting jackpot as the star of the sci-fi series Orphan Black: Not only is she playing someone other than a love interest, she’s playing seven ass-kicking, conspiracy-busting women and one man.

In a new project, she’s again exercising her ability to shift in and out of multiple personalities — this time, she’s lending her voice to Dodge, a gender-fluid, manipulative ghost-demon in the audiobook adaptation of Locke & Key. (Gabriel Rodriguez and Joe Hill’s award-winning graphic novel describes a California family trapped in a haunted-maze-like house.) Fans of Locke & Key and Maslany can download the audiobook on Audible until November 4.

We talked to the actress about making a cult character her own, and why science fiction offers the best roles for women.

What about Dodge appealed to you as an actress? 
I loved the mischief of the character. I loved how Dodge could draw people in and make people believe things and make people do things. There was something [about] playing an evil character — I don’t get to play those characters. It was fun to play in the world; it felt like I was being a kid, making these voices.

Was there a freedom in being able to interpret a male character as a female actress?
When I read the book, it seemed to me that Dodge was always a fluid character and went from male to female as they wished. There was something really cool about that fluidity and that internal duality. I loved it. I felt like there was a real opportunity to explore all these different weapons that are innate in both genders. What I discovered is that they weren’t mutually exclusive — as a female, the male is always there and vice versa.

That makes me think of something George Clooney said recently — he wants more male roles to be rewritten for women, so women have better roles. Do you think that duality exists in more traditional film and TV parts? Could more male roles be rewritten for women ?
Seeking to carve out our own space is more interesting to me. There’s this thing people have about adapting the roles guys already have — that’s boring to me. I’m more interested in finding what the new thing is that we haven’t discussed about characters onscreen.

We don’t have to keep treading in the same shoes as men. That doesn’t feel progressive; it feels like we’re still playing into a patriarchal sort of idea that men are superior and that they have something we should covet or want, instead of carving out our own space that is desirable and owned by us.

Instead of deferring to men and saying, yes, men have the better roles, so we want those roles and wouldn’t it be great if they were gender fluid, it’s more like, you guys can have those. We’re interested in the stories we have to tell over here, which are just as compelling and just as complex. They don’t have to be male characters to be complex.

Your characters are all pretty compelling on Orphan Black. Do women need to turn to sci-fi to find better roles?
I’m super-proud to be on a show that’s changing things, that’s putting women as the default center of things. Maybe it’s because sci-fi shows tend to occupy a world that’s being created right in front of us, that’s like our society but a little bit more creative, and seen through a different perspective and a different lens — there are clones, or technology is taking over, fantastical elements. It allows people to broaden their minds a little bit. People are more willing to suspend their disbelief. They’re more willing to follow an unlikely hero. Because we are outside of the constraints of the normal world, there is more freedom.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Are the Only Good Roles for Women in Sci-fi?